Australians fear Irish using names 'as gaeilge' in visa fraud
THE Australian authorities are investigating a migration fraud amid concerns Irish people may be using passports issued in their Irish-language names to conceal their identity as they seek visas.
The Irish Independent has learned of concerns that people were using passports issued in their Irish-language names to apply for working visas in Australia. They were not entitled to such a visa because they had previously got one using passports issued in the English-language version of their name.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed to the Irish Independent that its officers travelled to Dublin in February to discuss immigration and border protection issues with their Irish counterparts.
"The Department is aware of and is investigating a migration fraud involving Irish applicants using new passport features to access Australian visas," a spokesperson said.
"Accurately identifying non-citizens underpins the integrity of Australia's migration, visa and citizenship programmes and is the basis for all security and character checks completed before making a decision about whether to grant a visa to come to Australia."
However, the Australian authorities said they could not comment further.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed it was taking measures to prevent abuse of citizens' rights to secure a passport in their Irish-language name to conceal their identity. "Care must be taken by the Department to mitigate the risk that name-change requests are being used for identity-swapping purposes," it said in a statement.
The measures to prevent identity fraud involve including the person's birth name in English on the passport until a citizen can prove they have been using the Irish-language version of their name for two years.
The Head of the Passport Office must also approve any decision to allow an applicant change the name on their passport without two-years proof of usage, after an assessment of their credibility has been carried out.
"This policy seeks to protect the integrity and security of our passports against passport or identity fraud," DFA said, while seeking to aid those wishing to use the Irish language more frequently.
Under the 2008 Passport Act, citizens are automatically entitled to get a passport using the Irish form of their name if it appears on their birth cert, but where it doesn't the Passport Service seeks evidence they have been using this new name and identity for two years.
However, the Passport Service has discretion on this so it has introduced the option to allow people who don't fulfil the two-year proof-of-use requirement to get a passport with their Irish name with the birthname added as an observation - though they can reapply for a new passport without the English name after two years.
The DFA said its Passport Service regularly met with other countries to discuss passport issues.